GTA 5 has been out for over a year on PC, but we're still enjoying the gorgeous streets of Los Santos. Sitting around anticipating Rockstar's next epic open world—where will GTA 6 be set? Will we ever see a Red Dead game on PC?—talk turned to the weird array of characters we've met on our journeys through Rockstar's worlds. Some were great, some were annoying, some were just evil—all by design. When you step into the world of Grand Theft Auto, you expect an anarchic cast of often monstrous ruffians. Here are some of our favourite, and least favourite characters from the series. Who are yours?
Warning! This article contains spoilers for GTA IV DLC and GTA V.
Best: Johnny Klebitz (GTA IV, Ballad of Gay Tony, Lost and Damned, GTA V)
It was a toss-up between Johnny, Tony from GTA III, CJ from San Andreas and Trevor from GTA V (who, ironically, killed my favourite character during his brutal introduction in the game, though in my head I’ve decided that’s non-canon). Johnny is perhaps the most sympathetic protagonist of all the games, trying to keep biker gang The Lost together while stopping the slightly tragic Ashley from overdosing. He’s loyal, a nice guy, and a likeable hero who isn’t completely broken beyond repair—which is exactly why Rockstar got the despicable Trevor to off him. It helps that The Lost And Damned, GTA IV’s substantial first piece of DLC, was one of the greatest expansions ever made, and that his missions tended to be more fun that Niko Bellic’s.
Worst: Brucie Kibbutz (GTA IV, Ballad of Gay Tony, GTA Online)
had to think long and hard about this, because while GTA’s roster of characters is basically wall-to-wall wankers, that doesn’t necessarily make them bad characters—just not very likeable. There is a big difference, there. With that in mind, I’ll pick loudmouthed wannabe muscleman Brucie Kibbutz from GTA IV, who probably means well, but bellows about being ‘genetically superior’ and was by far the most annoying guy to hang out with in Liberty City. I’m a Roman Bellic apologist.
I’m a big fan of GTA IV—I wish it ran properly on any of the PCs I own—but I can’t deny that Brucie got right on my tits.
Best: Brucie Kibbutz (GTA IV, Ballad of Gay Tony, GTA Online)
I think I’m probably in the minority here, but unlike Sam I loved GTA IV’s Brucie. In fact, he’s the only character in the entire game, aside from Niko, whose name I even remember. There’s rarely been much depth to Rockstar’s GTA characters—they’re amusing, over-the-top caricatures pulled from Goodfellas and other crime flicks or conduits for satirizing pop culture. Brucie was the best of the latter: an insane bro obsessed with his pecs and afraid of anything that jeopardizes his alpha manhood. Everyone’s in on the joke that Brucie is an idiot except for Brucie, and he cracked me up every time he was on screen. Bull shark testosterone was a hell of a drug.
Worst: Steve Haines
I’m sure there were great and terrible characters in GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas that I’ve long forgotten—only IV and V are really fresh in my mind. From those two, my least favorite character is FIB agent Steve Haines, mostly because he set up the tasteless torture scene GTA V forces you play as Trevor partway through the game. It’s an ugly, failed attempt at being edgy that Rockstar weakly tries to excuse after the fact with some Trevor dialogue about choice and blah blah blah. It was in poor taste and Rockstar wholly failed to justify the scene’s existence. Steve didn’t have much personality beyond stereotypical corrupt cop, so he was mostly just a mechanism to push the characters into missions. And that torture mission was just garbage. We’d have been better off without you, Steve.
Best: Tommy Vercetti (Grand Theft Auto: Vice City)
We're saying best, not most likeable, right? In that case, Vice City's Tommy Vercetti is the obvious choice. He's the perfect GTA lead—a sociopath, but not hateful. Vercetti is violent and dangerous, but surrounded by people more violent and more dangerous. His ascent to the throne makes sense: it's part necessity, part desire. He's Scarface—obviously so—and that's fine. That's what a GTA needs. There's none of the awkward dissonance of Niko, or the arbitrary randomness of Trevor. Vercetti is pitched just right—at home with the life he leads, but with enough heart to keep the story interesting.
Worst: Ricky Gervais (Grand Theft Auto IV)
Ricky Gervais performs part of a stand up routine at the Split Sides club in Algonquin's Star Junction. Therefore, he's a legitimate character in the world of GTA IV. Is it too mean to include a real-life celebrity in a list like this, just because I don't find him funny? Wait, I've just realised… Robbie Williams is also a character in the GTA series. He performs Kids with Kylie Minogue on GTA V's Non-Stop-Pop FM. I'm changing my answer to Robbie Williams for the intolerable pop drivel that is Angels. (Is this still too mean?)
Best: Michael De Santa (Grand Theft Auto V)
I’m a sucker for washed up has-beens in any kind of fiction, and Michael’s the epitome of that. He’s a bloated shambles, spending his days drinking scotch by the pool and listening to Phil Collins. But then he has a mid-life crisis and starts trying to relive his glory days as a professional criminal, and I love going on that journey with him. The moments where he trades blows with his family are as entertaining as any of the missions, and the complete lack of respect they have for him results in some hilarious moments—like being drugged by his son and having a psychedelic freakout. Michael’s an asshole (everyone in GTA is), but he’s one of the most unique, unglamorous protagonists in the series so far.
Worst: Vladimir Glebov (Grand Theft Auto IV)
As much as I love IV, Niko encounters a lot of bland potato-headed gangsters, and Vlad is one of the worst. Roman’s in debt with this Russian mob boss, and you end up working for him to pay it off. He’s an obnoxious, humourless lump of angry meat, constantly calling Niko a peasant and generally being an unpleasant jerk. Of course, that’s the idea. He’s one of the first ‘villains’ you encounter when you first arrive in Liberty City, and I took great pleasure in murdering him under the Algonquin Bridge. There are so many vivid, colourful characters in the Grand Theft Auto series that guys like this are somehow even more unlikeable.